Sixth Sunday after Trinity July 11, 1999
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
In the name of the triune God, who is the focal point of our gathering today in Christian worship, dear fellow believers in Christ, dear fellow redeemed.
At certain fast-food restaurants they have a practice in which they designate one of their workers to be “Employee of the Month.” Every month the manager evaluates all the employees. The one who scores the highest rating gets to be “employee of the month.” Which means, as far as I can tell, that the person’s picture is taken. The picture is put into a frame and hung on the wall for public display. In some cases the “employee of the month” gets to park up front, instead of out back, where all the other workers have to park. For at least 30 days this individual is honored for the quality work that he or she has done in service to the franchise and to the customer.
It’s OK to honor people for their accomplishments and their service to other people. But that honor should never go too far. It should not reach the same level as worship. At times people come dangerously close to doing that. The fanaticism that some are willing to show to superstar athletes or popular entertainers goes beyond what it should be. We can’t worship another human being, no matter how good they are at what they do. We shouldn’t even worship the angels, for they too are created beings. The Bible points to one as the worthy recipient of our devotion, our faith, our spiritual loyalty, and our praise.
Worship is never optional for the Christian. God requires it, even as Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” But God’s requirement, God’s command should never be the only reason why we obey. If our worship of God is merely forced, reluctantly granted, then we are falling short of what God really wants. Worship for the wrong reason is just as sinful as no worship at all. It is God’s will that we become willing, cheerful, grateful worshipers of the triune God. God deserves our worship because of what He is and because of what He does. Let’s examine today the good reasons that God has given us to worship Him.
We’re a month or two away from the start of another football season. After several games are played, they have enough statistical information to rank the players according to their performance. Who’s the best passer, the best rusher, the best receiver? It remains to be seen. But one thing we expect is variation. The top quarterback will not be the top running back. It’s very rare indeed that one man ranks #1 in every category of his field. Of course, God is not man. God does not have weaknesses. God is not good at one thing and average at another. He’s the top performer in every category. As we learn so plainly from our text, He’s #1—in fact, He stands alone—when it comes to the work of creation.
Let’s take a brief overview of Psalm 95. Verses 1 and 2 invite us to worship the one true God. Verses 3, 4, and 5 show us the reasons why: “For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land.” God deserves our worship because of His tremendous power. That power is clearly demonstrated in the things that God made. Take a careful look at nature, and you will see the evidence that God is very strong. With bulldozers and construction workers, man is able to dam up a river and turn it into a reservoir. But man could never make the water that flows into the river. Man could never form the ocean or the mountain range or create the sun that heats our planet and gives us light. The credit for that has to go to God, as we hear in Ps. 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
The power of creation is one thing that distinguishes God from all the idols. The real God is the one who made all things, including us. The fake gods that people have conjured up for themselves are totally imaginary, powerless, unworthy of human worship. God deserves your worship because He’s the “real thing”; He’s the Creator. His greatness is established by the fact that He made you. He made your brain and your body to work together in wonderful fashion. He made you as the most valued of all the creatures. We should never forget the order of importance that God established at creation. He made the plants and animals to serve us. He made you and me to serve Him. So nature should never be worshipped as though it were God. We worship the Creator, not the creature. Think of the response David had, based on the fact that God made him so well. “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
God deserves our praise because He is our Maker. He also deserves our praise because He follows through and takes care of us, day after day. God is #1 when it comes to the work of preserving and protecting His people. What else would you expect? If God had enough power to make all things, surely His power is still good, controlling all things according to His wishes and His plans. The Bible gives you great hope when it says: “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.”
Everything that surrounds our life, that fills our life, that invades our life is in the hands of the almighty God. If we are in danger, we look to God to be our Protector. If we are sick or critically ill, we look to God to be our Healer. At least that’s the way it should be. Far too often we put too much confidence in the doctor or the medication or the power of money. These are not the things that keep you safe and secure. God does that. Even the basic necessities of life are His to grant and distribute. Don’t pat yourself on the back for the bounty that you have. Give the credit to God; He’s the one who gave you the bounty in the first place.
We forget God’s involvement at the physical, material level, because it happens so naturally and so constantly. We need to look behind the scenes and see the hand of God at work. It’s more than a job that God is doing. His care and concern are based on His personal love for the people that He made. Like a father caring for his children, like a shepherd tending to the needs of his sheep. It’s a comforting picture that we find in our text: “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”
Yet we’ve barely scratched the surface. Saving you from danger, healing your illnesses, feeding your body will only help you during the time that you have on this earth. What about the coming of death? What about judgment day? How will you escape the guilt of your sin and the punishment of hell that hangs over the heads of all who break God’s Law? That is the greatest trouble that threatens our existence. We cannot remove the burden of our guilt. We cannot stop the spiral downward into everlasting damnation. We need God to be one more thing for us—the Savior, the “Rock of our salvation.”
Based on His own promise, God sent His Son to take our place under the Law. Jesus came to carry out the obedience that was required of us. Jesus took all the blame of our sin and suffered the penalty with the result that we are forgiven. Our sins are washed away. God gives us great refuge at the cross. If our sins trouble us, we can look to the crucified Savior as the assurance that our sins are forgiven. If we fear the coming of death, we look to the risen Savior who promised that we too will rise and live forever. God has done us plenty of favors to bless our life on this earth. But the biggest favor of all has to be the Sacrifice, the Salvation that He won for us, the promise of eternal life that is guaranteed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
So the triune God is more than “Deity of the month.” He is our Creator, our Provider, our Savior, the God who does everything for us. What should we do to honor Him? What should we do to worship Him? Let there be no doubt that God deserves our worship. He gives us plenty of reasons why. Now we consider the how. God lays out for us the right attitudes of Christian worship.
We have introduced and repeated this term many times now. I suppose we associate “worship” with certain things: a church service, the altar and the pulpit, the preaching of sermons, the singing of hymns. Yet worship involves a personal element that starts with the individual. Worship is the verbal response of our faith. It is the honor, the appreciation, the thanks, and the praise that we direct to God for all that He is and all that He does. Worship is the attitude of celebration. We express our joy by cheering, applauding, complimenting God for His goodness and His accomplishments.
Notice the happy mood that comes out in our text: “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” The reason for joy is constantly there. Look what God has done for you. Now celebrate! Applaud and cheer what the Lord has accomplished for His people. We celebrate the working of God, especially in our gathering together for public worship. In the assembly of our church, we get together to compliment God for His greatness and thank Him for His blessings. We give to God the joyful praise that He deserves.
Think of how this works in your everyday life. If someone makes an impression on you because of their hard work or their kindness or their special ability, you “talk that person up” to your friends. You pay them compliments to their face and say good things about them to other people. Well, the same thing should apply to God. We “talk the Lord up” in our church service. And we talk the Lord up in our conversations with other people. When God makes an impression, we have to say something. We express our joyful praise in church, in prayer, in conversation, for that is what God truly deserves from all of us.
Yet this joyful praise should not overstep its bounds. Worship involves another attitude that is just as important. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” In other words, as we worship God, let’s be sure to give Him our humble reverence.
After all, we’re not meeting with an equal partner, or a fellow peer. God is far superior in every possible way. His holiness overwhelms our sinfulness. His almighty power overshadows our weakness. His infinite wisdom overrules our foolishness. We have to know our place; by faith in Christ, we are to be God’s children and the sheep of God’s flock. We can’t tell Him what to do. He’s the Father. He’s the Shepherd. He’s the Boss. He determines what is right and good, and we are to accept that. He leads the way, and we are to follow. Our humility will have to come from a proper respect of the authority God has over us.
But that respect will not be like the fear of a slave who cowers under the threat of his master. God is like the good and loving king, who wins the respect and loyalty of his subjects. We bow to the authority of our King, because we know that He speaks the truth. We submit to the will of our Lord, because He is so good at what He does and so good for us. We strive to do His bidding, knowing that He will help us carry out His commands. We don’t seek a democracy in the kingdom of God. It doesn’t work that way. We live gratefully and humbly under the authority of One who is supremely greater than we are.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” How can we not heed the call to humbly revere, yet joyfully praise our God? He gives us plenty of reasons to worship Him. He defines what the right attitudes of our worship should be. May He also lead us to honor Him with the daily response of faith, the Christian worship that He truly deserves. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.